I spend a fair amount of time making myself feel old. So when I spied an article in Good Housekeeping entitled “40 Things That’ll Make You Feel Old If You’re Over 40,” I jumped at the chance to remind younger generations they are also aging.
We Boomers are not alone in encountering the mileposts of age with uncomfortable regularity. Maybe the Gen Xers should go on gray hair patrol when they realize Pac-Man is now old enough to run for the presidency. Unfortunately, Pac-Man was never my game. Once in the 80’s I played it with my nephews, expert gamers born in 1978, who were totally underwhelmed by my pitiful score – I just never got the hang of that joystick!
I remember certain youngsters being bored by the black-and-white reruns on Nick at Nite: classics from my youth such as I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show. Guess what, Gen Xers? Now it is reruns of Friends, which ended thirteen whole years ago! By the way, most of that cast – Rachel and Joey and all – were born when my Boomer sisters and I were in high school. And I still watch Lucy and Andy – on the Decades Channel…
Speaking of reruns: Full House has been gone long enough to have earned a sequel: Fuller House. Most original cast members have appeared on the new show, except for the Olsen twins, now 31 years old. My Millennial niece used to be confused by the older Michelle on Friday nights and the younger Michelle on the afternoon reruns: she referred to them as “Big Michelle” and “Little Michelle.” I must admit I have not seen Fuller House: I still cannot figure out that Netflix-Hulu-streaming thing…
A TV FYI: It has been 37 years since we found out who shot J.R., 34 years since M*A*S*H ended with B.J.’s rocky “Good-Bye” to Hawkeye, 24 years since graduation day on Saved by the Bell, and almost 20 years since the infamous final episode of Seinfeld. And already we have been laughing at Sheldon and his Big Bang buddies for ten years – while being plagued by the Kardashians for that same time period.
Baby Boomers and their generational offspring share one musical commonality: we all know the words to our favorite songs and often sing along – as in that car commercial with the man stuck in traffic singing “Sweet Caroline” at the top of his voice.
Anyway, during many PBS concerts, audience members resembling grandparents mouth every word of every doo wop song. During pledge drives, if The Association sings “Cherish” or The Fifth Dimension reprises “Wedding Bell Blues,” I am going to sing along, out loud, from my recliner – even if I do not call in a pledge!
A word of caution to younger generations who roll their eyes when Boomers wax nostalgic: those boy bands so popular in the 80’s and 90’s are aging as we speak. The average age of The Backstreet Boys is forty, and every member of The New Kids on the Block has celebrated almost fifty birthdays. Even the Spice Girls – Sporty, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Scary – are in their fourth decade of life. Before you young whippersnappers know it, you will be singing along during some PBS concert!
Oh, the fads this Boomer observed in forty years of teaching: Gen Xers with their preppie shirts, Rubik’s cubes, jelly shoes, and gag-me-with-a-spoon Valleyspeak as well as the Millennials dancing the Macarena, tending to their Giga Pets, donning their grungy duds, and generally rollerblading, breakdancing, and skateboarding through adolescence. Elementary teachers would have an equal number of stories about the Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, and Beanie Babies that showed up on lunchboxes, notebooks, and sweatshirts – at the very least.
Popular culture has always been embedded in advertising slogans and game shows. Way back in 1984, Wendy’s paid a little old lady to ask, “Where’s the beef?” Many a struggling student asked to “phone a friend,” while I occasionally used my best Regis Philbin voice to inquire, “Is that your final answer?” As for the rapidly-changing world of technology, I will mention only that eBay, Google, and match.com all launched more than twenty years ago; Facebook and Twitter are already thirteen and eleven years old, respectively.
As I was wrapping up my time with my teenage troops, body modification became the norm in the form of piercings – far beyond the pierced ears I have had since 1966. Baffling, too, was the proliferation of tattoos. Years ago, people endured the pain involved to stand out from the crowd; now many decorate their skin in order to be part of the crowd.
So, especially to those who never saw the fire hydrants painted to celebrate the Bicentennial, I will repeat two concepts from the original article that inspired me this week. Today’s high school classrooms are populated with students born in this century; for the most part, this year’s college freshmen were the last contemporary young people to be born in 1999.
And today’s teens and kids grew up without spending a “beautiful day in the neighborhood” with Mr. Rogers, who would have assured each of them: “You’re the only one who can be you.” I think they really missed something.
In my attempt this week to point out that non-Boomers are indeed growing older, I have succeeded in making myself feel incredibly ancient. Thanks bunches, Shirley…
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.